Author-parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor at the curtain-raiser of the 5th edition of the Kerala Literature Festival 2020. (Photo: IANS)
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New Delhi:

With more than 2.75 lakh attendees and five stands on the sands of Calicut, the 5th edition of Kerala Literature Festival by the Arabian Sea from January 16-19, 2020, promises to be the biggest bilingual event of its kind in India.

With participants from more than 14 nations, the festival promises a formidable line-up this time, including prominent authors such as William Dalrymple, Perumal Murugan, Benyamin and Shashi Tharoor, the Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram.

“As a Malayali and a writer, though sadly not a Malayali writer as I write in English, I am particularly proud of the literary traditions of Kerala; there’s a genuine waking up to the international appeal of writing in Kerala.

“The festival is truly bilingual; you’ll have discussions in Malayalam on Malayalam books, but you will also have discussions in English on books published in English and of course, their translations are also available extensively,” Tharoor said at the curtain-raiser for the event which he hosted at his residence earlier this week.

Noting that there’s a “wonderful readership” in Kerala for all sorts of books, Tharoor said that he first heard of the likes of Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus “when my cousins and uncles were reading their Malayali translations in the early 60s before I was old enough to myself discover them in English.”

“So, that’s the kind of literary culture we have in Kerala and this extraordinary capacity for enjoying literature is something that the rest of India could genuinely be inspired by,” Tharoor said.

He also felt that the only place he could think of that comes close in literary culture is perhaps Bengal.

“Bengal perhaps rightly or wrongly gets more attention for this than Kerala gets, but I think today that in per capita terms, there is much more literary output and much more consumption of literary output in Kerala than there is in Bengal.

“So, there’s a tremendously deep literary sensibility… There couldn’t be a better place for literature to be celebrated through a festival but equally, there couldn’t be a more splendid setting for literature because Kozhikode (Calicut) and the surroundings of the festival or within, shall say half an hour’s drive of the festival, there’s so much that’s beautiful to celebrate and enjoy that people from outside Kerala will enjoy coming to it, soaking in the discussions, taking in the touristic offerings of God’s Own Country,” Tharoor maintained.

KLF 2020’s program introduces new formats like debates, straight talk, book discussions and reader’s sessions besides ten minutes slots for the audience to introduce an original idea. The festival offers talks, debates, and discussions on a variety of themes ranging from literature, history, science, and journalism to cinema and environment.

“Gandhi and environment, the Gadgil Report in the context of Kerala’s floods, organic agriculture and the impact of rock mining, deforestation and sand mining on our environment are some of the themes that will be taken up for analysis and debate.

“Islam and women, the entry of women to Sabarimala, the Ayodhya verdict, the emergence of community dialects and tribal tongues as literary languages, the new short story, new versions of Don Quixote, the novels of Miguel Delibes, cartography, discoveries about the early Indians, robotics and the future of mankind, the role of social media in an opinion formation, current trends in art, music, and caste, literature in the time of trauma, etc. will be some of the themes to be discussed,” Festival Director K. Satchidanandan said.

The festival will also see the launch of the Vagamon Residency, a four-week event to be conducted twice a year for writers and artists, and the announcement of five new awards in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, popular science, travel and a grand prize for the best book in Malayalam.

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